Cleveland.com: Must pay-to-play be the American way? Betsy Rader (Opinion)

Here in Ohio, it’s too easy to connect the money dots in political decision-making, especially when the decision is so often to take away local power. For instance, while most of this country considers ways to reduce the use of plastics in order to avoid pollution, legislators in Ohio’s House last year approved legislation that would have banned local communities from limiting plastic bags if it had been enacted. In this op-ed for Cleveland.com, Betsy establishes how money is the name of the game in today’s politics.


RUSSELL TOWNSHIP, Ohio — In recent weeks, Americans got some shocking glimpses into the ways money buys access. We discovered that wealthy parents got their kids into elite colleges not just through big public donations but also by secret bribes and fraud. Cheating offends us; money is not supposed to buy opportunity in a meritocracy.

Our country also had a wake-up call when we lagged behind the rest of the world in grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8 after two horrible, similar crashes. It was hard to ignore the possibility that the delay was related to the company’s $1 million donation to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and more than $4.5 million given to campaigns and political action committees in the 2018 midterms, plus another $15 million spent on lobbying in 2018. This information is available through filings with the Federal Election Commission and on www.opensecrets.org. One can’t help but wonder why companies spend that type of money on political candidates if not to have influence in moments like this.

Here in Ohio, it’s also too easy to connect the money dots in political decision-making, especially when the decision is so often to take away local power. For instance, while most of this country considers ways to reduce the use of plastics in order to avoid pollution, legislators in Ohio’s House last year approved legislation that would have banned local communities from limiting plastic bags if it had been enacted.

This is part of a strategy of consolidating power with lobbyists and their cronies in Columbus that has become increasingly obvious since 2004. That’s when the legislature took away the home-rule power of Ohio’s cities and villages to regulate “permitting, location and spacing of oil and gas wells.” The sponsor of that legislation was then-state Rep. Thomas Niehaus, a Republican, who is now a Statehouse lobbyist for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. I was on my township’s zoning commission back in 2004 and at the time was baffled by purported conservatives taking away our local control – this seemed to me to violate conservative principles. Only over time did I understand the importance of following the money.

Read Betsy’s op-ed on Cleveland.com: “Must pay-to-play be the American way?”